Monday, August 31, 2009

August 27 2009

Mi familia!

I'm just waiting for my laundry, so I thought I'd add a few things I forgot to say in my email.  I'm in the intermediate spanish class, but it looks like I'll still be here a total of 9 weeks - I'm actually excited about that, it just means I'll be extra prepared when I hit Mexico!

The Sunday Devotional was amazing. Stephen B Allen spoke - he's the Missionary Dept. Director, and he's worked in the Church's Media Dept. for a long time. He was the executive producer for most of the Home-Front commercials, so he showed us a lot of them, and talked about them.  (family, isn't it about ... time?) Gabbie and Miranda - do you remember when we sat and watched all those in the visitors center in DC?  One of my favorites was "It's not who you aren't, it's who you are". Being yourself is great."

     Gabbie, I have a scripture for you. It's Isaiah 2:9.  Look it up and read it and then read it to everyone else.  I think you'll like it :)
     Dad, my comp says his parents didn't move to Michigan until he was 1 - so likely you wouldn't know them.
     Mom, thanks for all the updates from home and, of course, packages. I love all of them. Seriously, thank you for everything - including all the preparation you did for my mission :)

     Well, that's all for now, I'll write more after the devotional tonight.  (I did get to see the Oquirrh Mountain temple dedication. I was pretty amazing. I also went today to the Provo temple and like it a lot too. Very neat.

     I just had my first MTC Tuesday night devotional.  The speaker? Elder Richard G. Scott!  To say that it was amazing is an incredible understatement.  He bore such a strong witness of Jesus Christ and taught some amazing things about recognizing the spirit and listening to its promptings.
     Afterward, we had a district testimony meeting where we shared things we learned. one of our branch counselors, Brother Gubler, was there, and he said something that really impacted me:  It's astonishing and a singular blessing to hear one of 15 men in the world called of God to testify of Jesus Christ.  It is even more incredible that a member of the Godhead - one of 3 in the universe - testifies to us personally of Jesus Christ.
     That statement (and the entire devotional) really impacted me. I hope we can all learn something from it.  Later I'll try to share some more that I learned from the devotional, but it's about bedtime.

I received your package and letters today.  I really enjoyed Mikey's letter - thanks for sending it on.  Yes, mom, it's totally cool if Gabbie takes over my room. It think that would be great.

Tell everyone hi for me.  And Gabbie - thanks so much for your letter!  I loved reading it. (sounds like you've had a lot of fun with Reagan - ha.)

I love you all,
Elder Greer

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hola Familia!

Hey, It's so great to finally be able to email.  I have 26 minutes and counting, so let's get to it!
First off, thanks for all the packages and letters.  It's great to hear from everyone.  (I'm going to try to respond to as many of your questions and comments as I can - I've been taking notes!)

Dad, I'm surprised about your tough experience after I left, but honored (if that makes sense). All your movie quotes and everything were awesome. And in your most recent letter, I loved the reference to "your band" and everything. :)

Mom, "the part of Aladdin will be played..." was great. It really made me smile, as did "Oh shoee..." and the fact that Reagan has been chewing grass. Haha. So funny.  I love you.

Miranda - Your story about sleeping in school does sound like a pretty odd day, but hey. Naps during school are never a bad thing. Naps during the MTC... not so good. They keep telling us that naptime is in two years. Yikes. :) You told me a little about school, but I'd like to hear more. And yes, that teacher is a tough grader... kind of. He gives you the exact instructions for his assignments, and if you follow them and work hard, you'll be fine. Plus, you'll learn a whole lot; that's what I liked the most about his class. But that was my experience -- hopefully you like the class as well. Oh, and tell your friends thanks for writing me. I really appreciated it. One day I'll find the time to write them back, but until then, just thank them for me.

Gabbie -- I LOVE the comics you've been sending me. And the Mario/Luigi/Toad costumes! You definitely have to go as one of those for Halloween. I really like reading Calvin & Hobbes too. It always makes me smile. :) Thanks for your notes and your pawprints of Nikka (how is she doing, anyway? Does she miss me? haha), and everything. Love you Gabs.

Reagan -- Oh shooo.... haha. How's Reagan been doing? Mom, you said he's been good at school the last few days in a row. That's great. Keep me informed. Until then, somebody give him a hug and a punch from me. :)

Okay, so I absolutely love receiving your letters and packages. Seriously, they're so often. I'm still working my way through all the food though! Thanks.  While we're on that subject, the next time you think about it, I could use some white socks - we have gym 5x a week, so I've been reusing socks - no rush. Again, thanks for everything you've sent.

Some questions from previous letters. The blog sounds awesome. The idea of gathering comments from friends and sending them to me is a great one. I'd really like that. So far I've heard from all of you, Lisa & Laura (who sent me cookies and letters and such), and Jason.

Speaking of Jason (Stapleton), I got to see him here! His visa was delayed a week, so he was here until yesterday. We met up a couple times. Sunday night I had the chance to talk to him for almost an hour. He's basically fluent in Russian and doing so well. Still the same old Jason, but you can tell he's a missionary now.

I've also seen Jordan Cooper -- he lives on my floor, actually. We're in the Matthew Cowley building, right next to the cafeteria. It's very nice. He's going to Houston and has been here a couple weeks. Pretty cool to talk to him. Oh, and I met an Elder Davis who is friends with Nate Houle and has been to the Houle's house. It was kind of surreal. I'm super excited to see Cameron too! That's awesome.

Okay, now for the most important part... me. :) I'm absolutely loving it here. I'm sleeping well, eating well, excercising, and learning so much. I'm thinking in half Spanish pretty much constantly, which is cool. I'm learning so much about the gospel too. We've memorized D&C 4 (in English) and a few other things... like "Invitar a las personas a venir a Cristo a fin de que reciban el evangelio restaurado mediante la fe en Jesucristo y Su Expiacion, el bautismo, el arrepentimiento, el don del Espiritu Santo, y perserverar hasta el fin." (I think that's mostly right... It's our purpose as missionaries.)

It's hard to sum up all these experiences and feelings in... 5 minutes :) but I want everyone to know that I'm having a wonderful time. I'm not feeling any homesickness at all. It's not that I don't miss you, because I do, but I'm so focused on the work that it's never been a concern really. In two years I'll get to see you again! Until then, I'm going to work as hard as I can, be obedient, and preach the gospel.

Okay, now Dad's recent questions. My companion's last name is Ostergaard - his mom's maiden name is Shurtz -- did you know any of that family in Michigan?

Okay, 30 seconds left. I love every single one of you very, very much. Don't ever forget that. I'm praying for you.

Con amor,
Elder Greer
Letter from Elder Greer August 22, 2009

Dear Mom (and rest of family :)

Hola Familia! Como estan? We haven't had any Spanish training or anything yet, but it's been spoken pretty often, and I'm surprised at how easily the words come to mind when I want to say something. It's pretty neat. I love it here. The spirit is so strong and everyone seems friendly and happy all the time.

Mom, I know you'll want a step-by-step replay of my first day. So here is is: First, you dropped me off. Then I walked into the building. And then I walked down the hallway.... - okay, I'll skip to the main points. My host took me around an gave me a basic orientation. I got some pakets of info and my name tag (very cool), and went to the bookstore for my books. We got some pretty cool stuff - Bible / Book of Mormon / D&C / Pearl of Great Price - all in Spanish.

I found my room and met my companion (Elder Ostergaard, from Michigan). My other roommates are from Wyoming and St. George. My companion is also going to Tuxtla Gutierrez, while the other two are going to Merida (Mexico) and Portland, Oregon - both spanish-speaking.

We're all in the intermediate class for spanish (for now, anyway). I'm not sure about my departure date, but I'll let you know. The food here is delicious - but not as good as yours, Mom! (can you tell they gave us suggestions of what to say to our moms in our first letter? heh). We are separated into a 'branch" of 70 missionaries. Our branch president is Pres. Sanchez, from Lindon, Utah.

I got a notice saying I have a package waiting - from one of you, maybe? - but I can't pick it up until tomorrow. Just one more thing to look forward to!

Like I said, I really love it here. I am exhausted, but it's great. I'm so excited to start studying and teaching. I wanted to thank everyone for the letters you gave me when you dropped me off. I just read them all, and I know I'll read them again a lot. (I liked Nikka's best, especially her paw print - ha)

Anyway, I should finish unpacking and get to bed. I'm beat. I look forward to your letters, and I'll be able to email you on Tuesday. I'll let you know more about life here then. I love you all very much. I'll be praying for everyone.
Con Amor,
Elder Greer
P.S. tell Reagan "ohhh shooo" ha.

A brief overview of Justin's expected mission schedule:

He is scheduled to stay at the Mission Training Center (MTC) in Provo for about 8 weeks, depending on his visa coming through. During that time he spends most of his day in a classroom, studying the scriptures, learning spanish, and practicing various teaching skills.

There are up to 4,000 missionaries there at any given time, with hundreds arriving and leaving each week for more than 300 different missions around the world. Justin has one day off a week, to do laundry, write letters, etc, but is pretty busy the rest of the time.

When he finishes at the MTC, he will fly to Mexico, to spend the remainder of his 2 years in the Tuxtla Gutierrez mission. His area ranges across the "narrow neck of land" at the southern end of Mexico, including the states of Chiapas and Tabasco. He borders Guatemala (where his cousin, Mike, now serves), and both the pacific and atlantic oceans.

His mission is very hot and humid in the summer, turning to hot and rainy in the fall, and a relatively cool -yet humid - winter with temperatures in the 70's. The geography contains mountains and rainforests, and many lakes and farmlands. The main food will consist of fish, rice, beans, and tortillas, with plenty of fresh fruit.

His days will be spent searching out and teaching people the gospel of Jesus Christ. He would be happy to hear from any of his family or friends who wish to write. The address can be found on the lower right side of this website.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

MTC dropoff

Well, the dropoff is complete! Justin entered the MTC today at 11:30. Curbside dropoff is the new method, and it works just fine. In my opinion, it is much better to say your goodbyes in the comfort of your own home - and then a quick hug at the curb.

Our family is anxiously awaiting Justin's (oops, Elder Greer's) first letter! We'll paste them here as they come, and hopefully some photos as well.

Mailing address at the MTC

MTC Mailbox #102
Mexico Tuxtla Gutierrez Mission
2005 N 900 E
Provo, Utah 84604-1793